John Palermo got into the coaching business the same year I got into the newspaper business. I'm at my third paper. Palermo is at his 13th job.
Tennessee is Sam Pittman's 14th stop since he began as a student coach at Pittsburg State (Kansas) in 1984. Between 1997 and 2003, he was at six different schools in seven years.
"We know the nature of the beast,'' said UT assistant Darrin Hinshaw, who is at his fifth school since 1999.
The nature of the beast is that assistant football coaches are a nomadic bunch. Lawyers or dentists usually land in a community, dig in and grow roots.
Coaches keep Mayflower's number handy.
"When you chose a profession like this that's so results-oriented,'' said UT cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley, "you've got to be prepared when things aren't going like you plan them to.''
Tennessee's football season hasn't gone as planned. Some, if not all, of the staff likely will be gone, period.
I know, most of you out there aren't particularly sympathetic. These guys are well paid. And all but one member of Derek Dooley's staff — Charlie Coiner — are due some amount of buyout because they're working on multi-year contracts.
Even so, I don't envy anyone having to uproot a family and start all over somewhere else. And then do it again a couple of years later.
UT football has been in flux since Phillip Fulmer was fired in 2008. Lane Kiffin brought a new set of coaches to town in 2009 and left 14 months later.
Jim Chaney survived the Kiffin year and stayed on under Dooley as offensive coordinator. He's finishing his fourth season at UT, which means his family is finishing its fourth year in Knoxville.
"We're no different than any other profession,'' Chaney said. "You'd love to have stability for your kids.''
Chaney grew up on a Missouri farm. He appreciates a sense of community, of roots.
"I would rather be somewhere 30 years,'' he said. "That's the way I was born and raised and I feel real bad about my kids not getting to do that.''
Chaney hasn't been a jumper. He spent eight years at Fullerton, seven at Purdue. His shortest stint was three years with the NFL Rams. Most coaches would take that average.
Dooley's third UT season began with seven new coaches, an indication all was not well. But they came anyway.
Ansley, a 2005 college grad, had just taken a job at Central Florida. He had no sooner signed a lease than he bolted for Knoxville.
"Tennessee was a no-brainer,'' he said. "I didn't think twice about leaving the job I was at.''
In contrast to Ansley, Palermo is closer to the end of the grind than the beginning. He considers it a blessing he got to stay put 16 years at Wisconsin.
He had already resigned a job at MTSU last December when UT called.
"A place like Tennessee was a great opportunity,'' Palermo said. "You've got to seize the moment and take it.''
If the pink slip comes, he'll retrace his route back to the house he and his wife built near Dale Hollow Lake:
"We'll just throw stuff in the U-Haul trailer and I'm an hour and 45 minutes down the road.''
In the meantime, being the pros that they are, Dooley's assistants are doing what they were hired to do. This week, it's trying to beat Vanderbilt.
"The good Lord,'' said Pittman, "is going to send us somewhere or keep us here.
"Whatever it may be, there's not a whole lot you can do about it other than roll up your sleeves and go to work.''